Opportunities at light source and neutron facilities

June 15, 2010

New intense sources of radiation at national facilities in Chicago, New York, and Tennessee coupled with the next generation of sensitive detectors are allowing geochemists like John Parise to gather images and data on minerals in one second that would take years of equivalent exposure on conventional laboratory x-ray facilities.

John Parise, professor, mineralogist and solid-state chemist at Stony Brook University, New York, discussed this and other new systems available to geochemists today at this year's Goldschmidt Conference, hosted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The enhanced power of x-rays and pulsed neutrons -- especially at the new facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- give geochemists more sensitive tools to detect, characterize and understand the mineral components and the contaminants they absorb or release. Identifying these minerals and how they change with varying conditions such as temperature, relative humidity and irradiation hold the key to understanding the evolution of planetary surfaces, including that of our Earth.

Parise and his colleagues have been studying ferrihydrite, a common iron oxide composed of minute crystals. The structure of ferrihydrite is impossible to get right by studying it with conventional laboratory x-ray techniques. However, by using high-energy x-rays created in a synchrotron storage ring accelerating electrons, the research team has been able to identify the of the ferrihydrite crystals as a relative of aluminum oxyhydroxide. The discovery of this basic structure has enabled Parise to show how environmental contaminants attach to the surface of this iron oxide.

"The need to look at materials in new ways has changed the science culture for some scientists who use these sources -- the very way they do science," Parise said. He discussed the importance of accessibility and continued development of light source and neutron facilities at the conference.

Explore further: U.S. neutron source facility sets records

More information: This year's Goldschmidt Conference is being held in Knoxville, Tenn., during the week of June 13-18.

Related Stories

U.S. neutron source facility sets records

February 13, 2007

U.S. scientists are excited with the accomplishments achieved during the first nine months of operations at the Spallation Neutron Source facility.

Recommended for you

Single-photon detector can count to four

December 15, 2017

Engineers have shown that a widely used method of detecting single photons can also count the presence of at least four photons at a time. The researchers say this discovery will unlock new capabilities in physics labs working ...

Complete design of a silicon quantum computer chip unveiled

December 15, 2017

Research teams all over the world are exploring different ways to design a working computing chip that can integrate quantum interactions. Now, UNSW engineers believe they have cracked the problem, reimagining the silicon ...

A shoe-box-sized chemical detector

December 15, 2017

A chemical sensor prototype developed at the University of Michigan will be able to detect "single-fingerprint quantities" of substances from a distance of more than 100 feet away, and its developers are working to shrink ...

Real-time observation of collective quantum modes

December 15, 2017

A cylindrical rod is rotationally symmetric - after any arbitrary rotation around its axis it always looks the same. If an increasingly large force is applied to it in the longitudinal direction, however, it will eventually ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.